When is a more than half empty school an "oversubscribed" school? When it is the Whitehall Park School, Islington, this Autumn.

David Barry's picture
 43
SUNMMARY

Whitehall Park School, Islington, is a Free School proposed for opening Autumn 2014. It is to use the old Ashmount site. The planned intake is 56 children. Before the closing date Bellevue Place, the proposers, described applications as "flooding in"; after the closing date the proposers confirmed they had had “many more applications than we have places available” and subsequently the DfE described the school as "popular with parents" and the school's reception year as "oversubscribed".

However a Freedom of Information request to the DfE has established that the ACTUAL number of applications to the school was just seventy two. The statements by Bellevue and the DfE are misleading. In fact the viability of this project for lack of demand is now in question.

INTRODUCTION

As earlier reported (see here) on the 6 February there was a short report in a local paper, the Islington Gazette. The article was written by a journalist, Rory Barron, briefed by a "DfE spokesman". It read, in part:

"interest in the school, which is due to open in September, appears to already be "through the roof".

A DfE spokesperson said: “Whitehall Park Free School is being set up in response to significant local demand – and the school’s reception year is oversubscribed for September 2014.

“Free schools, such as Whitehall Park, are popular with parents – they provide more choice and freedom and ensure children have access to the high quality education they deserve.”

On the 24 February a long article appeared in the Evening Standard. (It is worth reading in full.)

In it Alison Roberts wrote:

"Tom Legge, lead sponsor of Whitehall Park...... says that it (the school) has had “many more applications than we have places available” for next September’s first cohort of two forms, although he won’t give precise numbers."

Earlier, before the closing date for applications, a spokesman for the new school at a public meeting, referred to "overwhelming demand" and applications "flooding in" to "a surprising extent".

However, both Bellevue and the DfE preferred, it seemed, not to say HOW many applications there had been. So good news for the Whitehall Park School then. But no numbers. So I put in an FOI.

It turns out that this "flood of applications", "overwhelming demand",“many more applications than we have places available”, "oversubscription" and "through the roof" amounted to....

 

Seventy two applications For fifty six places.

Lower than the applications received by 40 out of 45 Islington Schools, and the five with fewer applications than Whitehall Park all had vacant places - and for smaller planned intakes. (footnote 1)

HOW MANY APPLICATIONS IS A "FLOOD"?

To put the "flood" of applications into perspective, last year, for example, Ashmount School had more than three and a half times as many applications.

(Ashmount is the school which before moving half a mile down the road occupied the site - open market value 10 million pounds - that Bellevue expect to acquire for nothing when the DfE requisitioned it for them from Islington Council, so the comparison is telling.)

However as Janet Downs pointed out in an earlier posting boasting about numbers of applications is not a good basis for assessing the popularity of schools.

Counting every application in which a school is mentioned, irrespective of preference, is not reliable, as a child cannot occupy more than one place, even though applying for several. (In London parents applying to existing schools can indicate up to six preferences, and they are strongly advised to use as many preferences as they can.)

So the point here is not "look how many applications Ashmount got". It is that the claim by the DfE and Bellevue that THEIR school is especially popular falls at the first hurdle when the number of applications is only a fraction of those normally received by a neighbouring school. And a neighbouring school which occupied the site for which the Free School is destined up until last year. And less than all the other neighbouring schools. And less than the applications received by 90 per cent of Islington Schools. And the ten per cent with less applications had lots of vacant places... (Footnote 1)

TWO KINDS OF APPLICATIONS

Moreover, what is going on is two separate things; the application process for existing schools (run through Islington), and the special application process run by Bellevue Place for Whitehall Park School.

The first kind - Applications to existing schools

Parents apply for existing London schools through the pan London admissions system. The three schools closest to the old Ashmount site are: To the East, Coleridge School in Harringey, Ashmount School on its new site in Crouch Hill Park, both close to Crouch End, and each other. To the West Hargrave Park school. Hargrave Park is the same distance (to the west) as Coleridge and Ashmount are to the east. Parents living near the old Ashmount site will have been wise to apply for all these schools in order of preference. They can do this because the pan London admissions system allows them to apply for up to six schools (in order of preference).

So while last year Ashmount had 256 applications and Coleridge School, twice the size of Ashmount, had 549, this does not mean that there were 805 separate children looking for a place... In fact because Ashmount and Coleridge are, (since Ashmount's move), within a short distance of each other, a significant number of people who apply for Ashmount also apply to Coleridge in order of their preference. This apparently direct competition for pupils benefits both schools, as it means that, in general people who apply for both schools get the one they preferred.... When someone applying through the system is eligible for an offer at more than one school, they still only get one offer through the system - for the highest preference school for which they qualify.

At that Ashmount was truly "oversubscribed" last year in the only sense that matters. It filled all 60 of its reception places. So how many applications would Whitehall Park need to have a reasonable chance of filling its 56 places?

NB: Local Authority Schools do not have a marketing budget.

The second kind - Applications to Whitehall Park

We need to understand that, for this year only, applications to the new school go direct to the new school. As Bellevue Place were careful to explain:

"Apply directly to Whitehall Park School … … and gain an extra choice of primary school. In essence, an application for Whitehall Park School is a risk-free choice for 2014 as applications are made in addition to the usual Local Authority process."

So an application to Whitehall Park School is an ADDITIONAL application. Thus, in this area, for this year only, parents have up to seven choices.

Given the substantial marketing effort carried out by Bellevue Place, including a number of public meetings in the area, and for that matter the publicity also given to the school by articles in the local press, in the Evening Standard and an appearance on BBC London it is striking that such a low proportion of local parents have used the "risk free" option proffered to them of an extra choice.

When offer day comes, as Bellevue explained:

"Those who apply directly to Whitehall Park School will give themselves the chance of being offered two Reception places, one from Whitehall Park School and one through the Local Authority"

On that basis one would expect that the 72 children for whom applications have been made direct to the Free School have also, separately, made an application through the pan London system for up to six other schools in order of their preference..

OFFER DAY

On offer day the pan London admissions system will send out an offer to parents. If their child was eligible for a place at more than one school, then the one offer they get is for the highest preference. If they have applied to the Whitehall Park School as well, they get two offers, at which point they choose the one they prefer.

All that we know, in advance of offer day, is that an application for Whitehall Park School COULD BE a first preference, but it could also be as low as a seventh preference. Now this matters because last year everyone in the Whitehall area was eligible for an offer from at least one existing school, sometimes more than one. We know that the same will be true this year, we do not know the exact details yet, but everyone who gets an offer from the Whitehall Park School will indeed get an extra, second offer from the pan London system. Providing of course, they have made the applications.

So how many places could Whitehall Park School expect to fill with 72 applicants who have a choice between Whitehall Park and another school?

CALCULATING THE ODDS

I hope it is clear there is already good reason to expect a serious shortfall in numbers, at this school, this Autumn. - Not very many applications, applicants having more than one choice. - But it may be possible to make some predictions of the size of the shortfall.

Making a forecast of how Whitehall Park will do by looking at the experience of other schools does not work where those schools have been able to fill all the places. For example we know that on 256 applications Ashmount filled last year, but so (obviously) it would have on 300 applications. In the other direction because Ashmount filled on 256 to suppose that it would not have done so on 225 is not valid either. All we know about schools that filled their places is that the number of applications they had was at least enough for that, but actually they could have been more than enough.

However because Islington has a surplus of school places a number of primary schools (10 out of 45) were truly "undersubscribed" last year - they had unfilled places. They simply did not have enough applications. By looking at the ratio of applications to places actually filled in these schools, assuming applicants to Whitehall Park School for 2014 behave like applicants to Islington schools in 2013 we can predict:

With 72 applications one could expect to fill between 19 and 23 places.

Would the best case result of 23 places filled out of 56, that is about 60 per cent empty be regarded as good enough by the DfE? If not, NOW is the time to rethink before very large financial committments are entered in to.

However there is good reason to believe that this calculation is a serious over estimate of the number of places that will in the event be filled. I made the assumption that applicants to Whitehall Park School will behave in the same way as applicants to other Islington undersubscribed schools did last year. But unlike them, they will get two offers on offer day. So they will have a choice to make. They will be choosing between an existing school rated at least "good" or "outstanding" by OfSted and, as Ms Roberts put it in the Evening Standard:

"the real choice parents will be making when places are handed out is whether to stick with existing schools or take a leap of faith on one that is not yet built."

How many will make that leap of faith?

AN EDUCATED GUESS

One can only guess how many will make that leap - and it may well turn out that quite a long leap is needed, as Ms Roberts also reported that Bellevue Place:

".... admit the school won’t be ready for them (the children), and that they may well be taught off-site."

Which raises the possibility that the new school for at least the first year will actually be housed some distance away (Bellevue, I have recently learnt, have bought new premises in Muswell Hill, which may be relevant. As commercial landlords they could rent them to the DfE to house the new Free School, which they would then run. No doubt they will give the DfE a good price.)

So one would guess that the rate of converting applications to filled places would, in those circumstances,- school unknown quantity and further away than the alternatives - be rather inferior to existing Islington schools.

However in an attempt to do more than make a guess, albeit one with some supporting reasoning, let us return to what happened last year. Let us imagine what it would have been like if Whitehall Park school had been open then.

Last year Hargrave Park was, it is fair to say, not on the radar of parents in the Whitehall Park area. There was little tradition of people going there in preference to the (previously ) much closer pre-move Ashmount, consequently there were a number of parents who only applied to Ashmount and Coleridge and did not think of Hargrave Park. For all such parents to the east of the old site, this point was moot, as they were offered a place either at Coleridge, or Ashmount, depending on their preference. However there was a total of six children whose parents had applied only for Ashmount and Coleridge, who lived in the Whitehall Park area and did not get an offer of a place. As Hargrave Park still had vacant places, Islington admissions offered all six children places at Hargrave Park. Three of these places were accepted, but the other three sets of parents declined, choosing to send their children to private, fee paying schools instead.

Would the three families who took places at Hargrave Park have accepted Whitehall Park instead? Well if Whitehall Park School was closer than Hargrave they would have had some incentive to overcome other concerns they might have had regarding taking a "leap of faith". If, for at least the first year, Whitehall Park School somewhere else altogether its a more complicated decision.

Would the three families who opted for independent fee paying schools instead have chosen Whitehall Park in preference? Perhaps, but fee paying schools in this area are selective so it is impossible to know whether state schools were merely a prudent back up strategy in case the application to the independent failed.

That brings us back to guessing again. So, instead let us assume that ALL the people left without places at Ashmount and Coleridge opted for a place at Whitehall Park.

That would have been six children. Schools on remote Scottish Islands have been closed with more children.

This year, of course, we will not know what is happening regarding places until it happens. But so far we have no reason to believe that, in this area, the pattern will be significantly different, except that, local, good reports, have been coming back about Hargrave Park school. It is now firmly on the radar, so the competition faced by the new school is now greater than it would have been last year. And if the new school has no premises announced on offer day (footnote 2) it really will be vulnerable to competition. And this is competition in the context of a surplus of places in the area BEFORE the extra 56 Free School places are taken into account.

In conclusion, my educated guess, educated in the sense that it relies as much as possible on established patterns in admissions in the area, and a guess because there are still so many unknowns, is this:

THEY WILL BE LUCKY TO REACH DOUBLE FIGURES.

David Barry

(Footnote 1) And of the four schools with fewer applications, only one was the same size as the proposed school, the others were smaller.

(footnote 2) As it seems the DfE have now realised the old building is useless as it stands, prohibitively expensive to fix up, and even then the outcome unsatisfactory and really poor value for money, they are now contemplating a demolish and rebuild. Not possible in six months, (lucky to just get planning permission in under five in an election year) and children cannot share the site while you are doing it. Offer day is April the 15th and it will be essential to announce the arrangements for September 2014 by then. There is a bus service to Muswell Hill.
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Comments

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 08/03/2014 - 17:22

David - I must admit I now greet "oversubscription" claims with a snort of derision. Counting every mention in the list of parental preferences is misleading. Suppose a primary school had 30 places - it had 90 mentions but these were at third (or sixth in London) place. The school could say it had three times more applications than places. But in reality it was the least popular choice.

But it could still say it was "oversubscribed".

Neil Moffatt's picture
Sat, 08/03/2014 - 18:47

Is there not a code of conduct that penalises lying? If not, the DfE have licence to mislead with abandon, as here.


David Barry's picture
Sat, 08/03/2014 - 23:30

Lying is a strong word; the claims are exaggerated beyond measure, but at what point does an excess of PR spin become an outright untruth? The spokesman for Bellevue Ltd, quoted by name, Tom Legge, is not an educationalist but a professional PR man -his background is in advertising and marketing - and in that trade there are always going to be "grey areas". A temptation to push things to the limit...

The core claim is that the school is "oversubscribed" and in the absolutely strict definition, - more "applications" than places- this is true. true but misleading as I hope I have shown.

Regarding the DfE I suspect that just as they appear to have believed originally that the old School building could be brought back into use, easily, and at low cost, and then found reality to be somewhat different, so they (lacking experience with school admissions) think that 72 direct applications is OK as it is more than 56, when in fact it should have been ringing alarm bells.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 09/03/2014 - 08:26

David - you're right to ask when PR morphs into exaggerated and misleading spin. It's similar to recent cases where free schools and their proposers use the word "Outstanding" when they're not entitled to do so. The Advertising Standards Authority takes a dim view.


Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 09/03/2014 - 08:31

Oversubscription figures can also be inflated by doubling the number of mentions by claiming each child has two parents. I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that this happened before West London Free School opened - the head gave one figure while a proposer doubled it on the grounds that it takes two to make one child therefore the application must be supported by both parents.

That doesn't necessarily follow, of course.

Neil Moffatt's picture
Sun, 09/03/2014 - 09:13

Lying and exaggeration are variations on a theme here of deception. It is that the intent is to mislead that should be penalised.


David Barry's picture
Sun, 09/03/2014 - 19:17

Janet I agree completely, that in general an "oversubscription" claim based on there being more mentions on school applications than places at the school is unreliable. I also agree that concluding one school is significantly more popular than another without taking into account the preferences (Which had more first preferences? and so forth) is also unreliable.

So we agree that claiming that any school is oversubscribed before, at least, offer day on this sort of evidence is unsound.

BUT

I do compare the figures for Whitehall Park with other schools in the area as a legitimate way of showing the absurdity of this particular claim. In fact given the resources put into marketing the school locally by Bellevue Ltd with no countervailing marketing by the other schools, it is surprising that the number is not a lot larger than 72. Not just surprising but alarming from the point of view, surely, of the DfE.


I am awaiting figures for the number of first preference applications for the LA schools in the area this year , which equates to the true number of applicants, and when I get those will get a better idea of what percentage of local parents actually are applying to Whitehall Park School as an extra choice. But it wont be large.

Celia Dignam's picture
Mon, 10/03/2014 - 20:29

Thanks David for a thorough critique of the Whitehall Park claims. Given the uncertainty over the site it would indeed be a 'leap of faith' for parents to opt for this unknown quantity over the excellent choice of schools available locally.
The sad fact though is that serious under subscription has to date not been a compelling enough reason for the DfE to pull the plug - as has been shown elsewhere in places like Leeds , Durham and Hull where free schools have opened with 11, 23 and 46 pupils respectively - and in Hull's case we are talking about a secondary free school. It seems no school is too small and no amount of taxpayers' money too large to squander in pursuit of the Gove 's ideological free school policy.

David Barry's picture
Sat, 10/05/2014 - 17:45

A rather relevant story in the Guardian.

(Thanks to Celia for drawing this to my attention)

"Half of new primary free schools fail to fill all their places:

Parents reluctant to send their children to new free schools, as some delay launches after problems with sites"


http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/09/half-of-new-primary-fre...

David Barry's picture
Thu, 13/03/2014 - 10:26

@Celia.

A bit pessimistic of you, (which does not exclude you being realistic as well... Alas.)

However I would point out that as time passes and instances increase of under enrolment people become more aware of the issue. In this case it makes it all the more important to do what we can to challenge this particular school before the fact of under enrolment actually arrives as it has in the cases you mention.

Also, there have been a number of cases of Free Schools being pulled at the last moment for lack of interest.

Moreover the political situation in London is that there are going to be areas - Boroughs - where after April 15 and the offers go out, there are going to be significant numbers of pupils with no places at all. In the Whitehall Park Area that will not be true. All current projections indicate a surplus WITHOUT taking into account the Free School places. With the Free School places, a large, large surplus. Millions to be spent creating a surplus in one place, with a shortage in other places and no money to do anything about that.This really ought to, (facilitated by the elections in May) cause a big scandal.

David Barry's picture
Sun, 16/03/2014 - 19:14

I have just obtained a really interesting bit of additional information about the applications to Whitehall Park School. Although the school publicity did make it plain that applications to the school were to go directly to it for this year, and not through the pan London admission system, it seems that in eleven cases parents got confused (or misunderstood ) and sought to make their applications to Whitehall Park school through the pan london admission system, by way of Islington - they are Islington residents. That is to say eleven people put the school down as part of the pan london admissions application.

Islington, of course, duly passed these applications on to Bellevue Ltd, so they are part of the 72. This means that for these eleven applications we can know where Whitehall Park School ranked in their order of preference of stae schools.. So I have asked for this information, which I hope to get soon.

However I already know that only one of them was a first preference. From the Bellevue point of view this can hardly be encouraging.

David Barry's picture
Mon, 17/03/2014 - 22:39

@Celia. I have found an example of a Free School delayed by a year, for lack of interest. In 2013, in Reading there was a Free School which had (interesting coincidence!) 70 applications for its first year - but it was decided to delay the school's opening by a year, (to this year) as by the end of July it had only three children still committed, the others had accepted offers with other schools.

It remains to be seen how it will do this year. perhaps in that area pupil numbers are going up enough to help it out.


In the Whitehall Park case as the first year would require some form of temporary accomodation anyway, which the EFA would have to pay for, delaying the schools opening by a year is a decision that might well be taken.

Of course a delay by a year would take the opening of the school beyond the next election (on the 7 th May 2015) which introduces another level of uncertainty.....

David Barry's picture
Thu, 20/03/2014 - 18:03

@Celia

And another example!

This time its a Secondary Free School in Richmond, London. Its called Turing House School and the body behind it is the "Russell Educational Trust" It was due to open this Autumn on a temporary site, which the DfE has decided will NOT now open. The announcement was made on 12 March 2014, that is, nine days after offers of secondary school places were made including, of course, places at that school.

It seems the reason given by the DfE was that a "a permanent building" was not available. However according to the Press Story parents had previously been assured

" the school would open in temporary accommodation in September before a permanent site was secured,"

While the decision, and the lateness of it, means parents have been left only five days to find another school, Richmond Council said all families who applied to the council have received another secondary school place.

This does make me wonder whether the real reason had more of a realisation, based on application figures, that there was going to be a significant surplus of secondary school places in this area if the Free School went ahead this year. It seems they were offering two hundred places, and yet all the disappointed children are to be accomodated in existing schools. This suggests two hundred places, at least, too many, this year.

As its a secondary not an exact parallel with Whitehall Park, but some resemblances.

The certain need to use temporary accomadation for some time, and an underlying lack of demand.

Parent2's picture
Thu, 20/03/2014 - 20:38

It invited applications outside of the pan-London scheme like Whitehall Park. But children were advised by the school to hold on to two offers until there was news of a site. The nearest schools to the temporary admissions point are two Kunskapsskolan academies, which did not fill up last year, and an 'outstanding' rated girls' school.


David Barry's picture
Sun, 23/03/2014 - 19:57

@parent2 (no reply button) regarding your remark re Kunskapsskolan. The plot thinkens -see this:

Halted academy chains: high attainers did badly in one while for-profit Swedish import Kunskapsskolan Requires Improvement or worse - See more at: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/03/halted-academy-chains-here...


Surely there could be no question of Turing House being delayed to reduce any adverse impact this news could have on enrolments at the Kunskapsskolan? (as Turing House would have provided places for people to prefer.....)

Blarney's picture
Thu, 03/04/2014 - 18:36

Richmond's DCS is a director of Learning Schools Trust and the two schools were converted on his watch. He's a maverick at dreaming up radical ways of saving money. Latest venture here:
http://www.richmondandtwickenhamtimes.co.uk/news/11119405.Kingston_and_R...

David Barry's picture
Tue, 25/03/2014 - 19:21

And (thanks to Celia) I have heard of another Free School delayed for a year. The reason given is an unwillingness to have the school in temporary accomodation for its first year.

Could it be that we are seeing the emergence of a policy, where a Free School, which is being set up in an area without a shortage of school places (so presumably under the "creating choice and competition" heading) has its opening delayed until a permanent provision made available? This would have the clear advantage of saving cost.


David Barry's picture
Tue, 25/03/2014 - 19:33

It would also rule out Whitehall Park School, which given Council figures must have been set up under the " creating choice" heading (except all existing schools at least OfSted "good") but will not now have a permanent building ready, according to Bellevue Ltd, until 2015. Which actually seems to me a very optimistic timescale.


Parent2's picture
Tue, 25/03/2014 - 21:00

David, half the pupils at the Kunskapsskolan schools are from Hounslow and they aren't as popular among those more local to Richmond. The girls' school in that area, while 'outstanding' (featured as one of the top ten state schools in a recent Evening Standard article), leaves a poorer choice for boys. Turing House also tried unsuccessfully to propose a site which the council reserved for a new Catholic VA school. But I believe the LA is co-sponsor (or this was the suggestion when they were proposed by the then LibDem council) and both KS schools were entirely rebuilt, so it would be poor value to see them undersubscribed. I have no idea if admission figures came into it, but the LA was able to offer every applicant a place from the separate London scheme - about 45 allocated to KS schools.


David Barry's picture
Wed, 02/04/2014 - 16:53

parent2 I dont know why, but my reply to you has ended up at the bottom of the page, and you need to look for it there. I should also mention that in the Whitehall Park School case the three local schools with which it is competing directly are two of them "good" and one "outstanding"


David Barry's picture
Wed, 02/04/2014 - 16:49

Parent2

Thanks for this most useful response. It shows the importance of local knowledge, something which, by the way, the DfE must find it hard to come by. What you have confirmed, positively was something I had inferred from the local press coverage. Namely that while postponing the opening of Turing House School AFTER offers had been made was a huge disapointment to applicants there had, in fact, been no difficulty in finding alternative places....

Your point about 45 being "allocated" as a result to two KS schools is striking. These are two schools which have just been declared by OfSted to "require improvement". Given that a central plank of the Free School policy is to impose market pressures on inferior schools, one has to ask:-

1.Would the same decsion have been made if these two schools were LA schools?

2. In any case, surely this decision could be seen to be favouring these two schools who now have at least 45 pupils they would otherwise not have had?

Parent2's picture
Thu, 03/04/2014 - 12:04

David, actually about 62 places were LA-allocated, although one of them offered 30 places above PAN (with its new building it does have the space). All schools in the LA did that to some degree - up to 10% of PAN - but elsewhere another over-offered by 70 places. So nothing unusual in that.

To give more context, when the two schools were under the LA, the number of allocated places (i.e. not stated as a preference) was in double figures in the years leading to academisation. So yes, the same decision would have been made when they were LA schools. Until recently there was a feeder school system which raised expectation that pupils would transfer with their classmates to more popular schools, when in fact distance had to be applied because they were oversubscribed, and there were always some who were disappointed.

The geography of that area does create islands (literally, as there are rivers that limit access by road). Technically the schools are only a couple of miles apart, however, and the Conservative council in opposition did query why both schools should be handed to the same sponsor.

Beth J's picture
Thu, 03/04/2014 - 16:29

David, all Richmond pupils have only been offered places because the LA has made 13% more offers than there are places. See here: http://www.richmondinclusiveschools.org.uk/files/view/useful-data/2014Se....

It is relying on a large number of families who are dissatisfied with their offers going private. It over-offers every year, but this year it has over-offered by 10% more than last year. It is a risky strategy, and its not yet clear whether the risk analysis was dependent on Turing House absorbing 150 students. Time will tell as people make decisions over the coming months.

David Barry's picture
Wed, 02/04/2014 - 17:45

I have not been able to get detailed info on the preferences yet, however I do have another, unofficial, bit of information. It seems that its is now known that of the 72 applicants to Whitehall Park School, 29 are Islington residents. This means that 60 per cent of the applicants - the other 43 - are from Haringey. This is intriguing partly because historically not many of the applicants to Ashmount when it occupied this site came from Haringey so, in that sense it would seem that Whitehall Park may be tapping a new market, except that one of the reasons why few came from Haringey before was that a short distance into Haringey access to Coleridge actually gets easier on foot than access to Ashmount.

It has been sriously suggested that the article in "Tatler" may be a factor it was referred to on LSN here:


The entry on Coleridge School ended:

"The catchment area is hanky-sized and families move within yards to get in - any further than three or four blocks away and you've got no chance.

Read more at http://www.tatler.com/news/articles/january-2014/the-tatler-guide-to-sta..."

In fact this is a huge exaggeration, the radius of admission last year was certainly not large but it was one third of a mile... (and reached as far as the old Ashmount site from where Whitehall Park are measuring their admissions this year.) One would almost think that the remark in Tatler had been inspired by someone with a house to sell...

But of course it is true that people are warned that last years radius of admission cannot be relied upon. An increase in siblings, or of applications from people close to the school and the radius can shrink. But the clear indication is that a large proportion of the Haringey applications for Whitehall Park School are from people within the historic "catchment" of Coleridge, and whose first preference is for Coleridge. So the key question for the Bellevue Ltd proposers of the Whitehall Park School will be NOT "Are there enough applicants in the Whitehall Park Area?" because at 29 we know there are not, and we also (see an earlier comment by me) know that at least ten of these do not have Whitehall Park as their first preference. Instead the question will be "How big is the Coleridge admission radius?"

Three points to note:

1.Over the last three years, up to last year, the total number of children applying for school places from the Crouch End area of Haringey has been falling. Will this trend continue? (have people who moved to Crouch End a few years ago, attracted by the good schools and the family housing, now completed their families?)

2. This year an additional 25 places are being created at a Church school in North Crouch End, which will ease pressure on other community schools

3. All Crouch End Schools showed an increase in their admission radius last year, small in the case of Coleridge, larger in the case of Rokesely and Weston Park.

Well we will find out soon after the 15 April.

Another thing we have yet to find out is where the pupils admitted to Whitehall Park for 2014 would actually be taught. Interestingly the Minister has not yet confirmed that he is actually going to use the old Ashmount site, as of time of writing... Perhaps we will know that by April 15th. Clearly if we do not that will put a bit of a damper on recruitement.

Beth J's picture
Thu, 03/04/2014 - 16:22

David, Marylebone school has announced today that it will open in 2014 after all.


andy gordon's picture
Thu, 17/04/2014 - 11:46

It is vey clear from numerous posts that David is not in favour of the new free school. However I am also sure there are a number of local parents looking forward to seeing the free school open. Many parents living close to the school site did have a local primary school 'Ashmount' which Islington council moved nearly a mile away and then broke promises to local parents about their ability to get into any newly built school. Local parents who do not already have children at the school and who live 50, or 100, 300, 500 yards away from the old school site can no longer get their children into the Ashmount school, fact, as I found out yesterday. So why can't this local community which I have to say is very friendly and genuine continue to have a local school. Whatever ones political views it is nice for parents if they can walk to a local school and if some children in the same road can go to the same school. Whatever ones political views, the trust setting up the school does run some very good schools and I can't see much wrong in a core belief that the children should feel empowered to want to learn. For me there are more pressing concerns to fight and shout about in Islington like the cover up of child abuse in so many children's homes. At the end of the day the proof is in the pudding, I believe there will be enough parents in the area wanting to commit to the new free school. Thanks


David Barry's picture
Thu, 17/04/2014 - 15:25

1. Andy does 72 applications count as enough to make the school viable? Dpes that count as "many parents?" I refer you to my original posts.

2. Ashmount School has in fact moved under half a mile. And one of the factors which led parents to support the move is that rather more than half the parents lived either closer to the new site, or the same distance from it. The Whitehall park area historically only contributed a small proportion of the pupils at Ashmount, with children walking to the school from the east. Now these children have a smaller distance to walk. (The move has disadvantaged some, but advantaged others.)

3. The problem for people living near the old site who wish to go to Ashmount is that now that the old building on the old site is no longer being used by the school more people want to go to Ashmount, so while the education quality was maintained the school moved from being seriously undersubscribed - by which I mean large numbers of vacant places - to being sought after - and the radius of admission has now shrunk for the second year running following the move to the new building.


4. So, for example, I have been made aware of a parent near the old site who did not get an offer for any of their preferences in the first round. Islington admissions have made this statement about the situation.

"...there will be significant churn over the coming months. The number of parents without an offer of one of their preferences in Islington is similar to last year on offer day. The council will have a clearer picture when it receives confirmation from parents that they are either accepting or declining the offer made. By the end of last year’s process, only 5 parents across the borough were not offered one of their preferences (none in the N19 area) out of over 2000 applications. Each of those five were then allocated a place at a school not listed by them, no one went without an offer of a place.

If that happens in this case, and the parents are offered one of their preferences from the council application, they can then decide whether they prefer that offer to Whitehall Park."

In short it is premature to draw conclusions about the actual position on school place supply.

John Piper's picture
Sat, 10/05/2014 - 14:19

Those who listen to the words of David Barry, may want to take them with a pinch of salt.

He is a governer at Ashmount School and has a vested interested in Whitehall Park School failing.

He has also been involved in a long running battle against residents who did not want Ashmount School moved from it's old site in the first place.

Lara. Glass's picture
Mon, 12/05/2014 - 21:28

Here here John Piper...the truth behind David Barry's words. YES HE WANTED ASHMOUNT MOVED and therefore now needs to protect his reputation and find ways of frightening prospect parents who believe in free schools that are local. We are in haringey and were offered a failing school in Tottenham so YES we would like to be offered a decent school.none of the schools on our list was offered to us and without Whitehall we would have no option but drive 40 mins to a private school.

So Barty can you please focus on areas that NEED your amazing detective work and let the parents in Whitehall park support a free school that will have plenty of demand once they open and show that an outstanding school can be achieved. By the way we personally know of another 5 other local parents who have not been offered any of their choices.

David Barry's picture
Thu, 22/05/2014 - 19:06

Dear Lara,

Its really not about me, and my "reputation" is neither here nor there.

I am really sorry that when you wrote on the 12 May you did not have a place for one of your preferences, and that you report 5 other local cases (also in Haringey). It would be useful to know where you are? Are you one of the people in Muswell Hill, in which case have you had some more offers yet?

Lara. Glass's picture
Mon, 12/05/2014 - 21:39

Two more points to be added to the above....Islington council proposes 50 New apartments on part of the ASHMOUNT site.....where will these children go? Will they be like us and not offered any school option that is good or outstanding. 50 housing units means a lot more children in a few years time.
Furthermore if a new school did not replace ASHMOUNT we would then have possibly 150 units of housing and still no local excellent school that is able to admit the growing families.

David Barry's picture
Thu, 22/05/2014 - 19:13

Actually the nature of the housing development, is not clear, other than Islington wanted it to be entirely social housing, to be delivered by a Housing Association. But what kind of housing exactly, with what sort of "child yield" not established. And in the current timetable it will not be ready before 2018 at the earliest. As the trend in Crouch End is for numbers of reception applicants to fall slowly, the position could look quite different then.

Four years ago the Coleridge catchment reached almost to Archway gyratory, and Ashmount school, due to the terrible building mainly was undersubscribed (but that was because parents could choose to go elsewhere!)

So a lot can move in four years.

Celia Dignan's picture
Tue, 13/05/2014 - 19:37

It's a shame that people are engaging in personal attacks rather than debating the issues. For the record, I taught at Ashmount for six years before it moved to its new location. During that time David Barry was Chair of Governors and no one could have done more than he to promote the interests of local children and ensure their right to be educated in a building fit for purpose (and for staff to teach in decent conditions). Ashmount was a fantastic school in which to teach and learn and pupils received a high standard of education. But this was despite the old school building. It was riddled with asbestos, its design resembled a greenhouse making it unbearably hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. Its metal framed windows had long since ceased to close properly and there would be puddles on our window cills every time it rained. The flat roof over part of the building leaked constantly and in heavy rain the main corridor would be littered with buckets and bowls to catch the rainwater. Some classrooms could only be accessed by walking through others. Thanks to the determination of David and fellow governors, the Head Teacher and the former Lib Dem and current Labour administrations, Ashmount children now enjoy their education in a modern purpose-built building fit for the 21st century. The relocation was a simple necessity. Unlike our current Secretary of State, councils have to demonstrate value for money in their financial decisions and the cost of rebuilding or refurbishing the building on the old site could not be achieved at a price that the local authority could justify. Of course this left an empty school site and, with legislation allowing the Secretary of State to simply requisition former school buildings for free schools, the rest is history. I have a great deal of sympathy for local parents who have not been offered a place at Ashmount in its new location or another local school of their choice, although the situation is always fluid at this stage in the admissions process and many will receive offers in the weeks ahead. However the situation in Whitehall Park raises some fundamental questions. What is the balance between local need and local demand and which should drive the opening of new schools? How should that demand be measured - is it enough that a handful of parents want a new school? Is no number too small? How much public money should be made available for a demand led (rather than needs led) school at a time when public finance is being cut to the bone and we have a serious shortfall of (mainly primary) school places across the country? To what extent should the detrimental impact on neighbouring schools be taken into account? In this case the school repairs budget for all Islington schools will be affected, leaving aside the effect of any displacement of pupils on other local primaries. It would seem that the free school proposers and the DfE have accepted the principle of sharing the site so that at least some of the 100 new affordable social homes the council had planned to build can go ahead. What a pity some residents cannot seem to accept this. This week has seen the debate about free schools brought right to the top of the national political agenda. In future years I believe it will come to be regarded as one of the worst education policies ever. Let's hope that realisation comes sooner rather than later before more damage is done to our education system.


David Barry's picture
Thu, 22/05/2014 - 18:46

Well Celia, I see you choose not to spare my blushes.....

But moving on.

Your description of the old building is vivid and accurate. When I asked my children about it the two things they most disliked were the heat in summer, and having lessons interrupted by people having to walk through your classroom. But it does seem that re using the building is no longer the DfE plan, but a demolish and rebuild.....Which will cost north of 10 million.


On Admissions when you wrote:

"I have a great deal of sympathy for local parents who have not been offered a place at Ashmount in its new location or another local school of their choice, although the situation is always fluid at this stage in the admissions process and many will receive offers in the weeks ahead -"

This is of course absolutely true.

At the Islington Schools Forum today it was reported that all Islington applicants were sure of getting a place, but that 102 applicants (out of over 2000 ) had not yet had an offer of a place at one of the schools, up to six in order of preference, that they had originally applied for. However figures this year slightly better than those of last year at this time.

However by the end of the summer there were only 5 applicants who had not had an offer for a preferred place, and were therefor "allocated" places at the schools nearest them with vacancies. None of those lived in North Islington.

I dont have the similar information to hand for Haringey, but a bulge class has been created at the well regarded, and sought after St Mary's, Hornsey which is basically to mop up applicants in Muswell Hill who had failed to get their nearest Muswell Hill school, and so got no school in Muswell Hill.

Where this is relevant is that it seems that following Whitehall Parks predictable failure to get many acceptances from the offers they made on offer day (The prediction made here) they sought to recruit from Muswell Hill following press reports of parents distressed to be offered a place, on offer day as far away as Tottenham, got a number of applications which were accepted, but are now relinguished as Haringey get them offers at well regarded schools, such as St Mary's rather closer to them. And which have a track record. And buildings.

Mother of two's picture
Tue, 03/06/2014 - 17:59

I don't really understand your agenda David. I also think your time could be better spent. You are not a parent of a four year old living yards away from the old Ashmount site and hoping for a good school for them THIS september. We and many of our neighbours and friends are. And we are all delighted this school is opening. And it IS opening. So I should focus your energies elsewhere and let this school blossom into what could be Islington's crowning glory. It was first in our mind as we wanted a local school for our child and have met the whole team and visited their Balham school. My mother, who has worked in education all her life at state and private schools and who is now a head of juniors herself also met the entire team and has given this school her blessing. She, like us, feels passionate about it now. And this is the case for many parents. I know many who, whilst applying for 6 schools, actually had this one in their mind as THE school, though we all applied for it as a bonus school direct. Many of these parents have actually turned down outstanding schools in the area to take up a place at Whitehall Park instead. I also know many who didn't get a school at all via Islington council, just like us, and who are being offered unacceptable schools and now are extremely thankful this school is opening. This school has had an uphill struggle trying to open, advertise and build advocates with nay-sayers like yourself scare-mongering. Yet the community around it and us actual parents are very hopeful and I'm sure would welcome anyone with a like mind to join our new family and build what could be an outstanding school.


David Barry's picture
Fri, 13/06/2014 - 17:33

Mother of Two

You say you do not really understand my agenda. Actually I thought it reasonably clear by no, but let me take this opportunity to state it.

I oppose setting up Whitehall Park School for the following reasons:-

1.The local community do not need it.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/06/how-many-from-where-how-su...


David Barry's picture
Fri, 13/06/2014 - 17:34

3.The local community will not run it, nor will it be accountable to the local community, in any way.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/02/governed-by-the-community

David Barry's picture
Fri, 13/06/2014 - 17:35

4. It is being set up on land which is being taken from the council without payment; which means that the maintenance budget for repairs for schools in Islington will be down by over 3 million pounds. Let me personalise this for you. It means that you will have neighbours going to schools which will be in a poorer state of repair because of the school you are sending your child to. There will be much anger about this.

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/10/islington-free-school-a-so...

Mother of two's picture
Mon, 16/06/2014 - 20:12

Your agenda is not at all clear. Especially as points 1-3 are just your matter of opinion. Just because you are ranting back at anyone who disagrees with you on this site and therefore silencing others who may have entered the debate, it does not make you right. Anyone can massage or distort figures to make their own case ...as you have done.

1. Clearly the local community does need this school. Nearly 60 kids are attending it in September. This is a fact. They either did not get in anywhere else (which a high % didn't), got offered somewhere very unsatisfactory, or preferred this choice. And they should have a choice, if at all possible.

Currently all but one of the schools in North Islington have waiting lists for Sept - the one without is a faith school. Ashmount, Duncombe and St Josephs have long waiting lists. The need for our new school is clearly established for the next school year and the need continues for as far ahead as estimates can be made.

2. The local community does want it - as shown by the ASAG support group and attendance at their last meetings where 99% were in favour of the school. A vote for Lib Dems across this area would be unlikely as many do not have children and have stronger political allegiances...but this is, for you, just an easy way to dress up your argument.

3. Local parents are being asked to input into the school so we WILL run it ....and we ARE the local community.

4. I know nothing about and - unlike yourself - I will look into this enough to be equipped with the right information and not just brandish my own opinions on everyone else. If this is what you are really fighting for, then just cut to the chase but I don't imagine if that land was all housing that that money would be pumped back into local schools either, so shame on you for using a straw-man argument.

Your implication is that £3m was going to be pumped into the run-down, ageing and decrepit schools of the borough next year, and now they're simply going to fall apart because of the new school being set up. Ridiculous. The income - such as it might have been - would have been channelled and diluted into all council activity. And likely wasted as is usually the case. And if the site is such a gold-mine, why didn't the council sell half to developers itself, and then build the school on the other half? Hmm. Something fishy there. It's lain dormant for long enough. I'd guess they realised they didn't have enough school spaces far too late, and took the offer to build a school from an outside source to fix their problem.

On a personal note, I would add that my own experience dealing with the school shows them to be FAR more impressive, professional and capable than any of my encounters with the council.

I will say that your campaign of slander and scaremongering is futile as the school is continuing to open. Your busybody negativity only causes anger and upset to local parents (who may not have voiced their opinion on here, but are certainly doing so openly outside local nurseries and on this community's streets) and a school which is trying to get off the ground! If you showed more concern for the education of the local children rather than your being criticised and being on the losing side of the debate, you could spend your time and energy better by being more positive, constructive and collaborative.

David Barry's picture
Wed, 09/07/2014 - 18:15

I realise on reviewing my posts that I have neglected to put a link here to the most up to date posting about admissions to Whitehall Park School, which carries on from this one, so here it is:

http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2014/06/how-many-from-where-how-su...

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